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It’s hard to draft good receivers when there aren’t many available

Seattle Seahawks v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

If the Seattle Seahawks have failed to find a premier receiver over the last three drafts (2015-2017), please at least do them the favor of looking at the receiver situation league-wide and consider cutting them some slack. For one, the NCAA has failed to produce many premier (so far) receivers in the previous three years.

And two, Tyler Lockett is one of the best of those classes up to this point. His Pro Bowl nod may have been as a returner, but only three receivers taken since 2015 have made the Pro Bowl as not-a-returner: Tyreek Hill, Amari Cooper, and Michael Thomas. Lockett is not at the level of any of those guys, but few young receivers are.

Maybe the 2014 class just sucked basically the entire receiving talent pool dry.

For all the talk of how bad the Seahawks are at drafting since their historic run from 2010-2012 (now somehow deemed by some as an entire, ass-backwards mistake by the Seattle front office), the truth is that within most of those drafts have been nuggets of valuable players rarely found by other teams. This can be well-exemplified by the selection of Paul Richardson in the second round in 2014, now a $40 million player in Washington.

That being said, it’s also fair to say that you could have pulled names out of a hat in 2014 and probably gotten a half-decent receiver.

Thus far, the 2014 wide receiver class has produced half of the most-expensive players in the NFL at that position: Mike Evans ($16.5m APY, 2nd-highest), Sammy Watkins ($16m, 4th), Jarvis Landry ($15.1m, 5th), Davante Adams ($14.5m, 7th), and Allen Robinson ($14m, 10th).

Part of that is due to timing, the 2014 class just saw most of the non-first rounders hit free agency for the first time. Which is also why Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, and Kelvin Benjamin are still on their rookie deals as first rounders, with the former two potentially getting bumped into the top-10 soon. But there’s also no reason why we need to downplay the fact that the 2014 wide receiver class is one of the greatest ever. Perhaps for any position.

Beyond those eight, there is Richardson, who is now making $8 million per year in Washington, and Marqise Lee, who re-signed with the Jaguars for $8.5 million per year. Donte Moncrief also signed in Jacksonville, making up to $9.6 million on his one-year deal. John Brown, Quincy Enunwa, and Ryan Grant are also getting paid decent sums this season, and could get considerable pay raises in 2019 with good seasons for their respective teams. Jordan Matthews ranks as one of the most productive receivers in the class, but has to rebuild his reputation on a one-year, $1 million contract with the Patriots.

Even Martavis Bryant, he of the ever-present suspensions, which is why he’s still waiting to be an unrestricted free agent, looms behind as a guy with the potential to be a legit number one receiver if he can ever keep it together for a couple years in a row.

There you have 16 receivers ranging from a few of the best in the league to some very useful pass-catchers down at the “bottom” of the list. Seattle came away with a guy who is only 17th in receiving yards among his classmates (Richardson has fewer career receiving yards than Eric Ebron, James White, and Devonta Freeman) but who was finally reliable in 2017. The Seahawks also grabbed Justin Britt that year, a franchise center, as well as Cassius Marsh and Kevin Pierre-Louis, two role players currently traveling around the league.

Comparing it to other draft classes for Seattle you’ll either be disappointed or pleased, but in a vacuum the Seahawks came away with players who are now a highly-paid starting center and wide receiver, and two veteran role players who could be around for awhile. It’s not that bad. When the good wide receivers all but disappeared after 2014, Seattle still managed to get the guy who will look to replace Richardson’s production in 2018.

The 2015 NFL Draft only features a small handful of receivers that you could consider “of quality” today: Amari Cooper, Stefon Diggs, Jamison Crowder, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, J.J. Nelson, and Tyler Lockett.

Diggs appears to be the best of the group, elevating himself from potentially just a surprising one-year fantasy wonder to ranking ninth in DYAR and fifth in DVOA last season. That being said, even Diggs struggled to produce big numbers for most of 2017, averaging just 46 yards per game over the last 10 games, then really elevating his playoff game stats with a 61-yard miracle to end the wild card round.

Cooper is a two-time Pro Bowler but one of those two times was definitely not 2017, as Cooper took some significant steps back as he finished 67th in DYAR and caught just 50% of his targets. Cooper had five games with single-digit yards, and 210 of his yards came in a single game against the Chiefs, one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season; that’s 30.8% of his total season yards in a single game.

In three seasons, Parker, the 14th overall pick, has two 100-yard games and he had only one touchdown last year. Crowder has become one of the better slot receivers, but ranking 55th in DYAR put him 24 spots below teammate Ryan Grant, the aforementioned receiver in the 2014 class who ranks very low on the totem pole of his own class by comparison. Agholor finally enjoyed a “breakout” in 2017, putting up a Richardson-like season, but will he ever live up to being the 20th overall pick? Phillip Dorsett, who went 29th, likely won’t ever play like a first rounder. Kevin White went seventh overall and certainly hasn’t, since he has yet to even play in seven games. Breshad Perriman (26th) was probably the worst wide receiver in the NFL last year.

Second rounders include Devin Smith and Dorial Green-Beckham. Third rounders include Lockett, Jaelen Strong, Chris Conley, Sammie Coates, and not-a-receiver, Ty Montgomery.

If Lockett was in the 2014 class, like Richardson, his evaluation might be the same as Richardson: “he’s doing okay for his class, though certainly there were better options in the same class.” It would be satisfying, but underwhelming. In the 2015 class however, Lockett may as well be a bonafide superstar.

He’s fifth in the class in receiving yards, but last season he actually ranked ahead of Cooper in DYAR at 60th and Parker at 69th. A healthy season from Lockett in which he potentially gets 100 targets could result in something like 65 catches, 800 yards based on conservative estimates from his previous three seasons, which is nearly identical to the 2017 season by Agholor that had everyone raving. It got Richardson $40 million, and Lockett should do slightly better than that. It could put Lockett as the third or fourth-highest paid receiver of this class, with the potential to do even better.

The Seahawks other picks that year did not yield much, but the other asset they did acquire, Frank Clark, could become one of the highest-paid pass rushers in the NFL next year. Essentially Seattle still found two high-quality players in 2014 and two more in 2015. To find a receiver at all in 2015 was quite impressive given that he’s surpassed several first and second round receivers in his own class.

Just to round this out, the 2016 receiver class has thus far given us Michael Thomas, one of the most productive first-two-season receivers in history, as well as Tyreek Hill, Sterling Shepard, and Will Fuller. Thomas is the only one who I have a ton of confidence in moving forward. And the first round included Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, and Laquan Treadwell, in addition to Fuller, meaning there’s been way more disappointments than pleasant surprises up to this point.

Even Fuller’s only notable because he caught seven touchdowns in his first four games, then after Watson went down for the season, Fuller was terribly unproductive for the next six games.

The Seahawks selected one receiver that year: Kenny Lawler in the seventh. Among their other picks were Jarran Reed, Germain Ifedi, Alex Collins, C.J. Prosise, Nick Vannett, and Quinton Jefferson. We’ll see how some of those players shake out with further opportunities this season, while Collins certainly became useful somewhere else.

And finally, the 2017 receiver class is way too early in their careers to judge, but was still massively disappointing out of the gate given the injuries and general lack of production from top-9 picks Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross. Among the productive were JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp, while Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin, Detroit’s Kenny Golladay, and San Francisco’s Trent Taylor finished third, fourth, and fifth in receiving yards among rookie wide receivers in 2017.

Seattle picks two receivers last year — Amara Darboh in the third, David Moore in the seventh — and they have yet to produce much on game day. It’s too soon to say if they ever will or ever won’t, but not too soon to say that Darboh’s not really behind the curve of his classmates. It does not yet look like 2017 will be as good as 2014, but will it be as bad as 2015 and 2016?

For their efforts, the Seahawks must be happy with early return on investment for Shaquill Griffin, Nazair Jones, Chris Carson, and Ethan Pocic. We’ll see about Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson, Darboh, Moore, and Malik McDowell.

This article was basically treading the line between two different topics and I know that, so I guess pick your favorite of the two topics and run with that. The receiver classes have been really disappointing in the last three years, but Seattle still managed to find Lockett and has continuing hope for Darboh and Moore. They also found some other assets that will potentially turn their most recent classes into ones for the “wins” category for John Schneider rather than the continuous negativity surrounding most conversations about the Seahawks’ ability to draft good players after 2012.

They have drafted good players. Even in some cases where good players, or at least good receivers, were really hard to come by.